Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) board members and staff met recently with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA 7th) to discuss federal legislative and regulatory developments that could impact co-op members.
REC board members Frank Boxley of Bumpass; Darlene Carpenter of Reva; and William Frazier of Montpelier met with Cantor, as well as REC President and CEO Kent Farmer and key senior staff members.
Also present were Cooperatives from the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC), the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), wholesale power provider for REC and 10 other electric-distribution co-ops in Virginia. The group met with Congressman Cantor at his Glen Allen district office.
The discussion centered on two recent federal directives that impact cooperatives’ ability to serve members at affordable rates. Proposals outlined by Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a March 16 memo would, in essence, turn the nation’s five Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs), which sell power generated by federal dams and power plants, into “test labs” trying out federal economic and policy initiatives, and, in the process, likely increase the cost of electricity for millions of co-op members.
“While we support development of new power options, PMAs should be allowed to continue to operate as originally designed — to provide power at consistent rates,” said Farmer.
Also impacting Virginia are U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Source Performance Standards for new electric-generation facilities, released in late March, which would require plants to limit carbon dioxide emissions to less than 1,000 pounds per megawatt hour. Such standards are unobtainable under currently available commercial technologies for coal-fired power plants, limiting the types of power plants that can be built to meet Virginia’s increasing demand for electricity. Recent studies indicate Virginia imports more electricity than any state other than California, meaning the Commonwealth is dependent on out-of-state generation to power its growing economy.
“All power plants should have as little impact on the environment as possible, but electricity also needs to be affordable and available,” said Farmer. “Conservation and efficiency will play a critical role in the energy mix of the future, but those actions should be taken willingly by consumers, not because electricity is too expensive to use.”
Also during the meeting, REC director Frazier discussed two bills currently before Congress that co-ops support: H.R. 3527, “Protecting Main Street End-Users from Excessive Regulation,” and H.R. 2682, the “Business Risk Mitigation and Price Stabilization Act of 2011.”
This is the first of a series of meetings being organized by the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives for representatives from each cooperative to meet directly with their elected representatives in Congress.
“The directors of each cooperative are elected representatives also, and, therefore, are uniquely equipped to detail the real-world concerns of the cooperative consumers they represent to the leaders in Washington whom these same consumers also elected,” said VMDAEC Executive Vice President Richard Johnstone.
REC provides electric service to over 155,000 connections in parts of 22 Virginia counties. With its general office in Fredericksburg, Va., the cooperative maintains more than 16,000 miles of power lines through its service area, which ranges from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay. For more information on REC, visit www.myrec.coop.